Kittel sprints home to claim his 10th Tour de France stage win
The Tour de France waived auf wiedersehen to Germany as the race snaked its way towards Belgium. The streets of North West Germany were swollen with cycling fanatics all showing their support for the 196 riders who started stage two. The Grand Départ will only serve to reignite German passion for the sport.
Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas proudly sat on his bike wearing the yellow jersey. Some of the riders were nursing injuries including Tony Gallopin (severely swollen ankle) – the Tour de France can be unforgiving.
The immediate breakaway consisted of, Thomas Boudat (Direct Energie) and Taylor Phinney (Cannondale-Drapac) and Laurent Pichon (Fortuneo-Oscaro) they were joined by Yoann Offredo (Wanty) – all eager to make an impression at their first Tour de France. The American rider Phinney was in a positive frame of mind, he took the first KoM points to hold the virtual jersey.
The bunch settled into the race and Lotto Soudal and Quickstepfloors did the work early on. The breakaway opened up a gap of 3’20″on the peloton with 40 kilometers to go. Sad news came in when it was announced that Luke Durbridge abandon the race, the third rider to do so. The Australian was one of many riders who fell on stage one due to the wet conditions.
With the weather conditions turning sour, Direct Energy rider Boudat took the intermediate sprint in Mönchengladbach. Single file was the order of the day as the riders made their way over the familiar cobbled streets of Northern Belgium. The pace remained high and the riders’ expressions told a story – nobody wanted to make a mistake with less then 50KM to the flamme rouge.
Road conditions had not improved and with 30 KM remaining the inevitable happened. A chute. Romain Bardet and Chris Froome were amongst the riders to hit the deck, nobody panicked, the . Froome required a bike change and his team mates where quick to hold off and get their leader back in the bunch. The KoM Polkadot jersey will go to went to Phinney as he claimed the second climb of the day but he couldn’t hold of the chase and was caught before a pulsating finish.
Conditions improved and roads were much drier as the riders made their way to the flamme rouge. As the sprinters moved into position nobody seemed to want to take the challenge on. Marcel Kittel and Mark Cavendish made a move. In the end it was the German Kittel who came from about six wheels down to take the stage win. André Greipel could do nothing but look on and acknowledge defeat as Kittel let out a huge range of emotions. Arnaud Dermare came in to the tour in excellent form, the French rider was fancied for the stage win but he had to be content with second place. Cavndish finshed in fourth place, a great finish for the Dimension Data rider, especially as he is fighting to get back to full-fitness.
Peter Sagan’s 10th place finish may raise a few eyebrows. The Boro-Hansgrohe team will start their postmortem as to why Sagan didn’t get into a better finishing position. Cavendish, Greipel, Sagan et al will be eyeing a stage victory before long, plenty more sprint finishes remain.
Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas remains in the yellow jersey and his team mates of Chris Froome, Michal Kwiatkowski and Vasil Kiryienka sit among the top-10.
Stage 2 results
Stage 3 takes the riders 212.5 KM from Verviers in Belgium to the French town of Longwy via Luxembourg. An uphill start will raise the heart rates of all the riders and give the GC contenders a chance to stretch their legs. There are five categorised climbs, the maximum gradient is 11%. Tomorrow’s stage has a Spring Classic feel to it and Thomas will have a decent opportunity to defend his yellow jersey.